Spring Big Day – Black Creek Marsh

After Danika and I returned home from owling, we got a few fitful hours of sleep before getting out of bed, albeit later than we had hoped.  We arrived at Black Creek Marsh at 6 am, but still had the place to our self.

Black Creek Marsh is located at the base of the Helderberg Escarpment in Albany County in Eastern, New York.  The land is state owned, but there is limited access to much of the property.  What trails there are, usually run through the shrubby uplands and field which surround the marsh.  However there is a narrow gauge rail line that runs right down the middle of the marsh and although there is a train rarely on those tracks, it is not recommended to walk on the tracks (although everyone does and I’ve yet to see local authorities enforce it).

Even with all the legalities, Black Creek Marsh is the best freshwater cattail marsh in the region.  It is best to visit right at dawn, but nearly every kind of freshwater marsh bird nests or is easily found here, including some difficult birds to find in many other places.

Although we were later than we wanted, the dawn chorus was still going strong.  Swallows, mostly Tree but some Barn swooped around us. Veery’s and Wood Thrushes sang from the wooded sections, Eastern Kingbirds chased each other around, Baltimore Orioles sang and Yellow Warblers flitted from bush to bush.

As you walk along the tracks into the marsh, one of the first birds you will encounter is Swamp Sparrow.

Swamp Sparrow, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Swamp Sparrow, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Swamp Sparrow, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Swamp Sparrow, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Another bird that you quickly find is the Swamp Sparrow’s Cousin, the Song Sparrow.

Song Sparrow, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Song Sparrow, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

But the star of the first few hundred yards into the marsh, is a little bundle of energy, the Marsh Wren.

Marsh Wren, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Marsh Wren, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Further along, the cattails become more flooded and here you find Sora, Virginia Rail and Common Moorhen.  The occasional Canada Goose nest can be found nestled among the reeds.  Even further down the tracks, the habitat becomes more ponds, surrounded by deep cattails.  Here is where you can often find American Bittern (not for us!), Least Bittern (we saw 1), Green Heron, Great Blue Heron and on occasion, Great Egret:

Great Blue Heron, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Great Blue Heron, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Great Egre, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

Great Egret, Black Creek Marsh, Albany County, NY

On our way out we heard yet another Least Bittern calling, giving us 2 for the day!  And in the trees which run along the marsh there were of course many different song birds, but that we will save for another day.  Also, Black Creek Marsh isn’t only interested for its avian residents!

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